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Marina Abramović

(b. 1946)

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(1946– )

Serbian Performance and Body artist. Born in Belgrade, she moved to Amsterdam and now lives and works in New York. Her performances have taken to an extreme danger, physical ordeal and confrontation with the audience. ‘If you're really afraid of an idea—that's the kind of idea I like’, she told an audience at Tate Modern. When she was young her parents tried to have her sent to a mental institution because of her performance work. In Rhythm O (1974), performed in Naples, she stood surrounded by various objects including a gun, a scalpel and a rose. The visitors were allowed to use these on her in any way they chose. When one spectator finally held a loaded gun to her head there was a fight and the performance was terminated. Far less physically dangerous but still highly provocative was Impondrabilia (1977). She and her partner and collaborator Ulay stood naked on either side of a door. The public had to pass between them, touching their bodies in order to enter the exhibition. Some of her later work has reflected directly on the wars in her home country. At the 1997 Venice Biennale, in an installation called Baltic Baroque, she sat in a white dress on top of a heap of cow bones, scrubbing them clean while singing folk songs. She began the process as a kind of ‘rejuvenating ritual’, but as the performance proceeded Abramović became increasingly distraught. As RoseLee Goldberg reported, ‘Weeping and exhausted, Abramović created an unforgettable image of grief for our times.’

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